NEW ARTIST FINDS: BIEN
Nashville’s Bien are dragging Music City into the future, with glittery beats and emotional synthpop.
Home of the Grand Ole Opry, Tin Pan Alley, United Record Pressing Plant, and copious musicians, from Kings Of Leon to Chris Stapleton and Kesha, Nashville, TN lives up to its name of “Music City.” Nashville boasts one of the biggest music scenes in the United States, and not just the Country Music Industry. Nashville’s always hosted an embarrassing wealth of world class studio musicians and some of the greatest songwriters on Earth. People have a tendency to forget The Athens Of The South when naming the United States’ biggest music scenes, namely New York, L.A., Austin, or Chicago.
Increasingly, huge metropolitan areas like New York and L.A., while having long, proud musical histories, are becoming too expensive for actual artists and musicians to have any hope of surviving there, let alone getting started. While there are no shortages of outstanding musicians from NYC and L.A., it’s not hard to imagine a future where PhotoShopped pop artists build their entire careers off of commercial jingles, festival performances, and lifestyle marketing. Not that we here at We Are: The Guard have problems with any of those things, but we must ask ourselves - Is it art?
As the coasts keep getting more expensive and competitive, slightly smaller music scenes, that are every bit as talented as vibrant, will become increasingly important. It’s vital we turn our ears towards Nashville, and other influential music cities and scenes. Unfortunately, a lot of folks have pigeonholed Nashville as being a Country Music town, being only capable of producing twanging steel-string acoustic guitars and rough denim. Bands like Nashville’s Bien are performing a valuable service, making world class Indie Pop out of Music City that bears not a trace of Patsy Cline or Merle Haggard.
Starting out as a humble songwriting duo, Bien has evolved to a full-fledged band, working with influential Nashville producer Tim Lauer - who’s worked with everyone from Amy Grant to Blake Shelton to Keb’ Mo and Rick Astley - on their debut self-titled EP, Bien.
Lauer’s resume might be straight country royalty, but Bien doesn’t sound it. Instead, the short-but-oh-so-sweet six-track EP is pure, modern synthpop, with a blissful, glowing, soft focus Beach House appeal. Synth strings meet cheap drum machines, on top of infectious female vocals, as sweet as sun tea and twice as refreshing. Bien’s synthy indie pop stands heads-and-shoulders from bandwagon-hopping synth pop bands, without even trying. Rather, it’s their lack of pretensions that help them to shine, in a world of flat, plastic corporate schilling. Bien’s beats, synths, and vocals are all gloriously subdued, warm and inviting, instead of screaming in the face. When the inevitable ‘millennial whoop’ comes in, on “Crowd Goes Wild,” with its ubiquitous handclaps and party stomps, it actually sounds like a dance party you’d want to dive into.
BIEN - CROWD GOES WILD
Bien have been moving towards an even more ethereal, more heartfelt, less corporate sound with their newest singles, like “Spinning On Blue,” which could be a synthy revision of a ‘50s romantic rockabilly ballad. “Spinning On Blue,” is much more likely to end up on modern Prom playlists, though, with a sturdy house beat, gauzy basslines, and vocal earworms.
BIEN - SPINNING ON BLUE
Bien have the world-class musicianship; the authenticity; the heartfelt relatability of classic Nashville country, but minus the twang and drawl. Bien should serve as ambassadors for a New Nashville Sound. Lord knows we here at We Are: The Guard are curious about what’s going on down there. You can expect to hear more about it, rest assured.
Big ups to We Are: The Guard curator MusicalHeARTBeat for alerting us to Bien! Great digging!
We Are: The Guard are digging Bien immensely, and you should too.
J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.